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Landslide reactivated at Beacon’s Beach years after warnings from scientists

The City of Encinitas closed off trail access to Beacon’s Beach from the parking lot above following the discovery of a reactivated landslide early Monday morning.

SAN DIEGO — It seemed like one of nature’s sudden surprises, but CBS 8 has learned just who saw it coming. 

“You can see the whole parking lot’s fenced off.  It’s been deemed unsafe,” said Mitch Silverstein, policy coordinator for the San Diego County Surfrider Foundation. “It’s a really sad day because we’ve lost access to a really great beach here.”

The City of Encinitas closed off trail access to Beacon’s Beach from the parking lot above following the discovery of a reactivated landslide early Monday morning.

“It’s totally blocked off.  No one can use it,” said Silverstein.

“I’m sad for Beacon’s,” said surfer Randy Smith. “You know, it’s probably going to take six months for them to fix it.”

The City’s engineering staff is monitoring the cliffside for the next 30 to 90 days, and no one is allowed to use the switchback trail access or parking lot until further notice.

“We need to face the facts. It’s on an active landslide plane,” said Silverstein. “Sooner or later it’s going to fail.”

Silverstein told CBS 8 this recent collapse was no surprise and that the city has had plenty of warning from experts for years about the instability of the cliffside.

“This is exactly where the City’s geo-technical reports said it would happen,” said Silverstein. “The last report was 2018, but going back to at least 2003, it’s been no secret that this is on an active landslide.”

CBS 8 dug into the geotechnical report of over 100 pages given to the city by the consultant firm AECOM in 2018.  It states, “There are clear indications that site geologic stability and blufftop conditions are continuing to slowly degrade and will continue to pose a hazard that will increase with time. The city has an opportunity to improve public safety with a proactive managed retreat approach.”

“Again, it’s no secret,” said Silverstein.  “Active failure zone.”

In 2018, the City’s Planning Commission was considering a proposal for a safer option than the existing switchback trail.  Plans were drafted for a staircase to be built on the south end of the cliffside.

“The reason a staircase on the south side of the bluff is a good idea is because it’s a more stable side of the bluff,” said Silverstein.  “It’s the least invasive way to guarantee access for when the switchback does ultimately fail.”

The staircase proposal was ultimately defeated by local opposition, but Mitch points out that in order to preserve public access here, a sustainable solution is needed.

“Fast forward 100-150 years. This bluff is Beacon’s Beach in the future. That’s why we need a staircase as something that doesn’t interfere with the natural erosive process.”

The City of Encinitas told us that the parking lot beach access is closed until further notice.

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Watch Related: Landslide reactivates at Beacons Beach in Encinitas, prompting closures (May 2, 2022)